By Jerod Young • Jerod Young • 

Willamina girls basketball upsets Vale, wins fifth place trophy

The Bulldogs lost in the semifinals Friday to St. Mary's, then lost a nail-biting overtime game Saturday in the third place game against Rainier to take fifth.

For full details, see Tuesday News-Register.

As luck (or misfortune) would have it, the No. 4-seeded Willamina girls basketball team drew No. 1-seeded — and two-time defending state champion — Vale in the 3A state quarterfinals.

The Bulldogs (23-3, 14-0) and Vikings (21-2, 8-0) were scheduled to play at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay. Results were not available at press time.

Willamina coach Tom Anderson said the Bulldogs can’t be intimidated by the past 3A state champions. He said teams are at a point in the tournament where the number next to a team’s name is irrelevant, and now it’s about which team’s basketball is best.

“(Vale) won the state championship the last two years in a row,” Anderson said. “They’re a good program with a lot of history, and we have to come ready to play this team. The rankings don’t matter anymore. It’s about playing good basketball.”

While Vale has won a state championship the last two seasons, the Bulldogs’ journey in the state playoffs has been a bit of a roller coaster.

Willamina hasn’t made it to the quarterfinal round since the 2009-10 season when it went lost 38-36 to Regis. That year, the Bulldogs went on to place fourth.

Since that season, the Bulldogs were bounced out of the tournament in the first round in 2011 and 2012. Willamina has not reached the state semifinals since the 2005-06 season when it beat Central Linn 35-27. It lost to Myrtle Point that year in the state title game.

“There’s a lot of dedication,” Anderson said. “This program has had success making it to the state tournament because it’s always had a group of girls that work hard.”

Anderson said the Willamina girls basketball program is familiar with the Vikings and how they perform in the playoffs.

“We played them four years ago in a regional game,” Anderson said. “The play an aggressive full-court, man-to-man defense. I’ve watched them the last two years in the state tournament, and they have a tradition of good, athletic teams.”

On paper, both teams match up almost evenly.

Vale led the Eastern Oregon League with 1,201 points scored. Willamina was second in the West Valley League with 1,310 points scored.

The Vikings were last in league with 824 points allowed, and the Bulldogs were first in the West Valley League with 801 points allowed.

“The thing we’re preaching this week is play our game,” Anderson said. “We know what it is that we want to do.”

Anderson said a key to playing a good team like the Vikings is having complete confidence.

“The other key for us is to have confidence,” Anderson said. “We have to play like we belong there. We do that by trusting in what we’ve done all year.”

What the Bulldogs have done all year is neutralize West Valley League opponents. The Amity Warriors run a similar man-to-man defense to the Vikings.

Though it’s a man defense, Vale (and Amity) target the ball and apply a lot of pressure which results in turnovers. The Bulldogs beat the Warriors’ pressure-man defense twice in the regular season, and once in league playoffs this year. Anderson said it’s fairly common, and a popular defense within 3A, but it’s not Willamina’s preference.

“We can’t come here, especially in the quarterfinals and rearrange what we do because of the team we’re playing,” Anderson said. “I feel like we’re playing good basketball, and this is when you want to play your best.”

The Bulldogs are at their best when they are running their 2-3 zone. The zone is also used to create a turnover-filled game. Willamina’s zone shut teams down and allowed its opponents an average of 30 points-per-game.

In the Bulldogs first round game vs. Corbett, Willamina was right on that mark and allowed 25 points. Anderson said Willamina’s defensive performance was key in the win over Corbett, and it has to carry over to the quarterfinals if it’s going to beat Vale.

“Last Saturday was probably our best team defense of the year,” Anderson said. “And we have to take this next step defensively to play a very good Vale team.”

If Willamina beats Vale, it moves on to the semifinals to play at 6:30 p.m. today vs. the winner of Scio-St. Mary’s at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay. If Willamina loses to Vale, its season isn’t over. The Bulldogs move to the consolation bracket and will play at 10:45 a.m. today vs. the loser of Scio-St. Mary’s at North Bend High School.

Note: The News-Register print deadline is 5 p.m. Thursday. Detailed game results can be found in Tuesday’s paper. For current scores and stats, go to

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